Church Emergency Response Shows Speed, Flexibility

“Church Emergency Response Shows Speed, Flexibility,” Liahona, Jan. 2008, N2, N4

Church Emergency Response Shows Speed, Flexibility

An earthquake in Peru and a hurricane in Mexico within a few days of each other demonstrated the speed and flexibility of the Church’s emergency response procedures.

“These two disasters have shown that local Church leaders have the resources and the capability of responding to immediate needs by buying and storing emergency supplies locally,” said Dennis Lifferth, managing director of the Welfare Services Department at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

Immediately following the 8.0-magnitude earthquake in Peru in August 2007—the deadliest quake to hit the country in the last 35 years—local Church leaders began assessing the urgent needs of all Peruvians, not only those of the Latter-day Saint faith, in the hard-hit port city of Pisco.

While a 747 cargo plane loaded in Salt Lake City with vital medical supplies, surgical instruments, family food boxes, hygiene kits, and tarps was making its way to Peru, Elder Walter F. González of the Presidency of the Seventy, then President of the South America West Area, directed the purchasing of food locally and opened four meetinghouses to serve as shelters.

Two days after the earthquake, Elder González represented the Church at a ceremony where more than 8,000 blankets were donated to Pilar Nores de García, the first lady of Peru, to be distributed to Peruvians affected by the quake.

Soon after the earthquake, a new threat worked its way toward Mexico. Hurricane Dean was expected to hit Cancun, so local Church leaders began stocking food, water, and equipment in a facility near the expected hurricane target. When the storm shifted directions, threatening the Yucatán Peninsula, Church leaders moved supplies to another facility in Chetumal. As the hurricane began a path back across the country, a third supply facility was stocked.

Technology has played a significant role in emergency preparedness, Rick Foster, director of administrative services for the Welfare Services Department at Church headquarters, explained. Now more than ever before, disasters can be predicted—sometimes even the precise location of the disaster.

“Having this information allows Church leaders and employees and volunteers living in threatened areas to begin the process of purchasing supplies and relocating people to shelters,” said Brother Foster.

Volunteers in Salt Lake City pack food boxes to be flown to the earthquake-ravaged area of Peru.